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African Green Revolution
As the world searches desperately for ways to boost food
production by at least 70 percent by 2050 to feed an increasingly hungry
planet, many are looking to Africa as the place where a large part of this
potential can be realised, mainly for its huge portion of arable land.
#Arusha, Tazania, will soon become the site of a major
brainstorming session on this very topic, when it plays host to the African
Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) from Sept. 26 to 28, which is aimed at
developing African-led food security solutions.
At the recent G8 Summit, global leaders including 21 African
countries and 27 private sector companies committed three billion dollars to a
new alliance for food security and nutrition.

Their goal is to raise 50 million people out of poverty over
the next 10 years. AGRF is designed to encourage African leaders’ commitments
by promoting ad hoc investments and policy support to increase agricultural
productivity and income growth for African farmers – primarily through
environmentally sustainable methods and innovative agricultural finance models.
The President of #IFAD, Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, will address
these issues at the Arusha Forum in a panel focusing on how to make African
national and regional markets work.
Tanzania’s recent agricultural growth represents a case
study of what is possible, forum organisers say. In the Kilombero district of
Morogoro, the yields for maize have recently increased for some smallholder
farmers from 1.5 to 4.5 tonnes per hectare; the yields for rice have increased
from 2.5 to 6.5 tonnes per hectare.
That smallholder farmers hold the key to Africa’s
agricultural potential is widely recognised, and activists hope the forum will
“explore new ways to provide resources, overcome challenges and improve yields
for the millions of farmers who are working less than two hectares of land
across the continent”.
According to Carlos Seré, chief development strategist
of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), increasing
agricultural investments is a key factor. “We haven’t invested in agriculture
since the green revolution as much as we should have, because it was basically
felt that this was something that the market would take care of.”
“Now we realise that we have small stocks. The big stocks,
for example of cereals, kept by the government agencies in the past have
now been reduced significantly. So when drought in the United States or in
Australia, or problems in Russia hit these markets, then prices go up rapidly
because there isn’t a big buffer of these stocks like the ones of the past.”
Agricultural investments have a huge direct impact on the
lives of smallholders, who manage a large proportion of the land in the
developing world.
 “They need more
public goods in terms of research, extension and a conducive policy
environment,” Seré told IPS.
“IFAD is fully involved in helping governments to do that.
Our work is about increasing the supply of food, and helping build the
resilience of smallholders and their organisations to become more efficient,
using land more efficiently, sharing knowledge, getting better organised,
and increasing their production in a more cost effective manner, getting food
to the cities and markets without incurring high transaction costs.”
Many of the world’s poorest people spend more than half
their income on food, making them vulnerable when food prices rise.
The #FAO food price index, which measures monthly price changes for
a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged
213 points in August, unchanged from July. Although still high, the FAO index
currently stands 25 points below its peak of 238 points in February 2011 and 18
points below its August 2011 level.
According to FAO, the index is reassuring and, although
vigilance is needed, current prices “do not justify talk of a world food
crisis”.
“This is a very different situation from what we had a
couple of years back,” Seré told IPS. “We do realise that this
situation has to be monitored carefully, but we clearly don’t see it as
being as serious as what we had before.”
Food security experts believe that the international
community is now better prepared to deal with global food price shocks than it
was in 2007 and 2008. “We have stronger mechanisms for coordination, analysis,
and information sharing,” according to Seré.
Many challenges still remain. “There is need for
productivity growth, particularly in smallholder agriculture systems, better
climate-adapted farming, better functioning and integrated markets, and higher
and more stable incomes for women and men living in poverty,” Seré said.
All these issues should be part of a continuing agenda,
which goes beyond specific instances of global price spikes.
What is troubling to some experts is the lack of global
awareness of the interconnected outcomes of food insecurity. But when the
international price of cereals began to rise to record levels in June this
year, following one of the worst droughts ever to hit the U.S. – the world’s
largest producer of maize and soybeans – it sent a strong message about an
interdependent global food system.
“I think it is vital to make the link between the food
crisis at home and what happens in the rest of the world,” Seré said.
“People often don’t have a clear understanding of how interconnected these
issues are. For example, soybeans for pig feed in Germany come from
Brazil, (which is) affected by rain forest clearing there and then there are
jobs attached to producing these commodities in (various) different places.”
Only a holistic analysis of the food system can lead to
concrete, global solutions.

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